Thursday, April 4, 2013

Another Successful Quality Seminar

Another Successful Quality Seminar

In Canada we have a variety of medical laboratorian organizations whose primary function is to bring people together for an annual meeting.  For microbiology technologists, scientists, and physicians the predominant organization is known as the Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease, which is abbreviated as CACMID.  To some the word CACMID brings to mind hacking and gagging, not in a polite way.  The organization has been around and active since 1974.

In 1994, I proposed to create a side seminar to highlight the interests and activities of Canadian microbiology oriented Proficiency Testing programs.  It turned out to be pleasantly successful, and there was a thought that we should do it again.  Well we did, again and again, and yesterday we did it again, for the 20th time.  

With the probable exception of the annual conference of the American Society for Quality, I would not be surprised if our 20 year run is the longest run of conferences dedicated solely to Quality in any industry.  If someone knows of another series or other series, I would be interested in hearing.
Over the years both the hosting organization and the Quality seminar meeting has evolved.  Now there are two hosting organizations CACMID and AMMI-Canada (the Canadian Society for Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology).  The Quality seminar has moved from its focus exclusively microbiology and PT.  Over the years we have high-lighted accreditation, standards development, Quality education, and suppliers; in essence  we have covered the spectrum of Quality and the collective group of Quality Partners.  

This year was another evolution as we focused on a variety of laboratory Quality tools.  One speaker was a clinical chemist who gave a very interesting discussion of Six Sigma calculations and how they can be used to describe and monitor error in the medical laboratory, not only with respect to quantitative assays but also for qualitative ones.  In the medical laboratory we see six sigma as a valuable shorthand that can reduce very complex numbers to very small and simple numbers.  This is very analogous to pH as a measure of hydrogen concentration or logarithms for that reduce 1,000,000,000 down to 109.  Already we hear laboratory folks talking about having an error rate around 4 (meaning an error rate around 0.5%) so we know that the shorthand is taking hold.

The second talk was one to which I am very committed.  In North America jurisdictions are falling over themselves consolidating many laboratories into 1 mega-laboratory; very financially efficient, but maybe questionable on effectiveness.  An adage in healthcare has long been “closer to home” meaning that the facility near you knows you as a person while the mega-lab doesn’t know much other than you as a number and a vial of blood.  Our second speaker was talking about implementing Quality into a laboratory in a small town hospital.  It we can keep these smaller facilities up-to-date and up-to-Quality, we extend and enrich their value far greater than shipping samples down the road to the big house.

The third presentation was on another subject that I enjoy; implementing internal audits in new formats that increase interest and attention and focus and knowledge.  It moves audits from the section called “mundane and boring” to “interesting and fun”.  Sara (the presenter) did a great job of conveying enthusiasm.

The fourth presentation was on a better way to look at Risk as it applies to decision making in the medical laboratory.  I have previously written in this blog about Risk and Uncertainty and Severity-Occurrence as a value monitoring tool.  This was my first time to do a live presentation on the subject of Risk.  I was pleased at how well it went, but it still has opportunities and potential for improvement.

For those interested we have posted 3 of the 4 presentations at for public 

 One of the presentations is going through a review, because the spectre of copyright infringement has been raised.  I suspect it is more speculation than fact, but we are checking it out rather than facing off problems.  It likely will appear next week. 

So with another successful meeting under our belt, some decisions are being made about what happens next.  Personally I have to do a motivation check after every seminar these days.  The process of getting new and fresh speakers is getting tougher.  But at the moment, I am pleased with 20, but now we are thinking of shooting for 25. 

Time will tell.

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